Forging Dragons
Forging Dragons
(Or Most Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dragons (Or At Least a Certain Amount)

John Howe writes: A new book coming out is always fun, generally as it means the editors involved are happy to coax me from my lair to go sign copies in some far-flung clime.*


Paperback: 144 pages
Impact (10 Oct 2008)
ISBN-10: 1600611397
ISBN-13: 978-1600611391


Inspirations, Approaches and Techniques for Drawing and Painting Dragons

Hardcover: 128 pages
Impact Books (31 Oct 2008)
ISBN-10: 1600613233
ISBN-13: 978-1600613234

The other Amazons have it too, of course:

Amazon Canada: Hardcover and Paperback

Amazon France: Hardcover and Paperback

Amazon Germany: Hardcover and Paperback

Amazon Japan: Hardcover and Paperback

(All the slightly contradictory information – differing page counts, publication dates, etc., stems from amazon having to create web pages far ahead of publication date. There are two identical editions: hardcover for the UK market, paperback for the US.)

You can also obtain the book directly from David & Charles. (Their art category is here.)

Or, for those of you in the US: Impact Books.

Not to mention Waterstones, where there is also an interview. (The winner of the Waterstones contest received the sketch that is on page 120.)

And, last but not least: Borders UK.




This is a book about dragons.

Actually, it’s several books.

One is an encyclopaedia, since dragons sprawl atop a wealth of lore that equals only their golden treasure troves. Dragons poke their scaly noses out of every crack and cranny of humanity’s patient edifice, they are ever in the dark space under the stairs, or flying over at great height, wings glinting in the sun, or guarding some door or gate with sharp talon or sly advice. Dragons are so much a part of our subconscious that we rarely consider them carefully (as they are such an intimate part of us, perhaps they don’t always invite scrutiny). The book is not, however, an attempt to link dragons to dinosaurs, to root the origins of the great wyrms in some imperceptible and hypothetical recollection from our proto-human past. Nor is is psuedo-science ; I am not a fan of cross-sections of dragon plumbing and fire-breathing apparatuses, all of which erase the magic while providing a wholly unsatisfactory fiction in exchange.

It is, though, a gallery of images; a glossary of scales, a lexicon of tails and talons, a thesaurus of Sauria, a visual exploration of genus draköni. Visually, dragons are a universe to themselves. They present illustrative challenges that involve a curious and simultaneous suspension and reinforcing of belief – they can’t exist, but they need to look real, dragging their bellies on the ground, spitting forth great gouts of flame, spreading their wings and taking flight. Quite honestly, I didn’t realize I had drawn so many of them, that they had found their way into so many images. But then, they can be devious creatures, despite their size.

It’s also a practical art book, as much as I dislike the term, it does contain an awful lot of things about how I work, what can go wrong or right in a picture (wrong always makes for better storytelling) and other hints and tips that are the product of much paper covered in colour, as well as signposting the pitfalls of discouragement that punctuate any picture. It is also a guide to treading the path between client and creative conscience. There will be a lot to read between the lines, and, added to that, each picture is always worth its weight in words.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is, in the form of a book, a representation of the way I work, a combination of encyclopaedic but fully empirical knowledge, both extensive and flawed, rigorous and biased ; a desire to see clearly even things that do not exist ; an interest in mankind and the visual terms of engagement with the world around us and the worlds in our heads. On the road between all these things, these contradictions and convictions, is where the illustrator of fantasy wanders, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with a strange sense of urgency and purpose. The notion of vulnerability to imagery is explored – just how much of what you consider your own personal vision is really yours, and how much is inherited or absorbed. How to deal with the uses of the enchantments involved – what is the part of subconscious that must enter into your palette, and how to make sure you don’t simply ruin it by too much thought – an exercise in studious intuition. How to let your pencil wander and how to follow where it leads. All very romantic, but simultaneously, it is also a hard-nosed exposé of how to draw the things and how to make them crawl and fly. (It’s also a nice opportunity to see if all these thoughts that tumble in the happy chaos of my mind can actually be given voices that make sense.) It is an attempt to pin down, even briefly, the infinitely tricksy business of why one sees things the way one does, not that the actual vision is valid for others, but in the hopes that the method in the madness thus outlined may serve as an example for the personal foray of the reader into those lands beyond.

And dragons are the perfect companions for such a voyage, because we all know what they are.

Or do we ?

John Howe, Neuchâtel, 2008

*One of those thinly disguised hints that editors always appreciate. Actually, having a book come out is quite a relief, as I can finally put new work on the web site, and not be limited to updating the scrapbook (as best I can, since I’m more or less chained to my desk – all work and no outings does not an exciting scrapbook make either), since it’s not good policy to show new work before publication.


Last week was punctuated by the shooting of two video clips, one for Forging Dragons, the other for Lost Worlds (of which, more later). The interviews look good, the scores sound fantastic and I even get, for once, to have a hand in the editing. Hopefully I’ll be able to put the first one on line at the end of next month, when Forging Dragons will be in the shops.


The DRAGONS 2009 calendar from Avalanche Publishing should be in the shops by now. Or, you can get it via amazon if you prefer.


John –